4 stars Sparks may have come late to the concept album party with their 2009 album, The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, but theatricality has always been essential to Ron and Russell Mael's oeuvre, from composer and keyboardist Ron's deadpan demeanour to Russell's sprite-like enthusiasm onwards. This is more apparent than ever throughout the first of UK date of the siblings Two Hands, One Mouth tour. As the name suggests, the duo leave themselves unadorned either by band-mates or onstage scenery, occupying a simply-lit black box space instead. The pair have even penned a lasciviously-inclined theme song, which plays as looped pre-show music sounding like a choir of Oompa Loompas. Ron Mael enters alone to tinkle out a teasing overture of snatches from Sparks' greatest hits before his brother finally comes on sporting a tweedy outfit suggesting a silent movie director turned gamekeeper. The piano-based sprawl across selected highlights from a forty-year back-catalogue that follows makes it plain that Sparks' raison_d’être is warped show-tunes that mash-up Gilbert and Sullivan, Noel Coward and Brecht and Weill with a wilfully wordy pop-art chutzpah. While Ron remains seated for such a glorified lounge-bar cabaret, Russell swoops both physically and vocally across the stage. For excerpts from the Ingmar Bergman album, Ron dons a beret for a spoken-word routine as Bergman himself. This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both of Us could be a template for The Associates' Party Fears Two, while an extended Beat the Clock sounds like Suicide playing a gay disco. The song's urgency even encourages Ron to leave his keyboard to indulge in a brief front-stage shuffle before they finale with their new song, Oompa Loompas to the last.
The Herald, October 22nd 2012 ends